Jeff Price, vice president and general manager, ITS, at Cubic Transportation Systems reviews the latest U.S. road safety statistics, which are among the worst on record. It outlines how technology, public-private partnerships and federal funding are once again combining in an effort to make the roads safer again.
There is a growing crisis in transport. According to the latest statistics from the US Department of Transportation, more than 30,000 people died on US roads in the first nine months of 2021. This represents an increase of approximately 12% from the first nine months of 2020. is the highest number of transportation-related fatalities in the first three quarters of the year since 2006 and the largest nine-month percentage increase in the history of data recorded by the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
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Even more shocking are the transport-related deaths predicted in the second quarter of 2021. FARS estimates 11,225 deaths for this period, which represents the highest number of deaths in the second quarter since 1990 and the highest quarterly percentage change (23.1%) in the history of data recorded by the FARS. system.
These numbers are a stark reminder that road safety and improved infrastructure are key to the future of mobility in the new year. However, this scenario will continue if we ignore solutions to forecast road traffic and reduce traffic congestion. In order to maintain traffic flow and safety, municipalities must innovate in their public transit systems.
Smart technology is a solution. Cities can use computer vision to make intersections safer and more efficient for vehicles and vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. An advantage of computer vision is the ability to measure safety parameters, such as near misses and dangerous driving. These security measures will be used to identify locations that need improvements and to quantify the impact of those improvements once they are complete.
While new road safety challenges may arise, the good news is that public-private partnerships are possible to create safer road travel. At the University of California, San Diego, extensive traffic signage and mobility modernization efforts are underway at 26 intersections along five miles of roadway surrounding campus. The university has partnered with Linscott, Law, & Greenspan (LLG) Engineers and Cubic Transportation Systems to lay the foundation for San Diego’s smart city future with adaptive traffic light control and cameras compatible with AI to detect vehicles and pedestrians at intersections.
As transportation embraces digital transformation, cities will need to adopt Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) technologies to bolster safety standards. As part of this technological ecosystem, applications equipped with automatic incident detection or stopped vehicle detection systems are available.
Additionally, there are advanced applications that incorporate live data and feedback from sources such as weather data. Cubic’s Gridsmart solution encompasses these types of features. For example, Gridsmart has counted and classified over 442 billion vehicles worldwide with unparalleled accuracy in 49 US states and 29 countries.
Cities and regions are looking to rebuild networks, upskill staff and improve services. Public transit improvements can also contribute to these improvements and, therefore, to safer roads. The President’s infrastructure bill provides an opportunity for transit agencies to make these necessary investments.
In Maryland, the bill’s promise is beginning to materialize with a $22 million federal grant for Baltimore’s East-West Priority Corridor. The plan is to create 10 miles of dedicated bus routes, which will improve accessibility for people with disabilities and bus punctuality. It will also improve traffic lights at certain intersections.
At the federal level, the USDOT launches the National Highway Safety Strategy. Its objective is to establish a comprehensive set of actions aimed at reducing serious injuries and fatalities. The initiative will be a joint effort between multiple stakeholders, including various levels of government, advocates, engineers and communities.
The future of mobility requires cities and transit agencies to be more proactive about congestion and safety measures. Part of this approach will also require greater investment in funds to build high-tech networks. The time has come to make these commitments, which will protect our loved one during their journey. Simply put, safer roads mean more lives saved.
Jeff Price is Vice President and General Manager of ITS at Cubic, responsible for leading its ITS portfolio comprising the Gridsmart, Trafficware and Umo IQ/Display product lines. Previously, he worked on the research and development team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate. in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy.